July 2009 Mixtape: Cross-Country Digging
DJ Ian Head
It’s the season of rehearsal dinners and dry cleaning – yes, my friends are getting married. This past June I spent three weeks traveling, mostly by train, around the country to take part in the festivities. Being that one wedding was in Philly and another in Los Angeles, and that I hate flying on planes, AND that I’m currently unemployed, I figured roll Amtrak-style and hit a few cities in-between. New York? Chicago? Pittsburgh? I’m there, kickin it, eatin donuts, Ethiopian food, and digging in a grip of crates.
But there are some limits to this kind of digging. First off, I’m on a strict budget (like I said, un-em-ployed) so I’m givin most of my attention to the dollar bins. Second, I’m not tryin to haul dumb records around with me – I already got all those extra wedding clothes, some books, and my laptop (Did I mention I was co-djing one wedding?). So I had to be choosey. At the same time, if I had come up on a crate full of rare gems for cheap, you know I woulda boxed it up and mailed it home.
But that didn’t happen. What did was adventures in stores and flea markets, from Burbank to Brooklyn. Hit some classic spots, can’t reveal everything but anyone who runs through Pittsburgh has to hit Jerry’s, a landmark record spot with boxes of 45s to the ceiling. Jerry will probably be behind the counter cleaning records.
What I came home with was an eclectic set of joints, some for sampling and some for just vibin out to. I tried to make the mix flow between genres as easily as possible, but there’s definitely some obscure selections. However, I feel like all these songs have a unique, soulful quality to them. Some records even tie in thematically to my three weeks of couch surfing. However, despite my reason for traveling, these are records you’ll probably never hear at a wedding. But that’s probably a good thing, right? Hope you enjoy.
Bernard Purdie “Way Back Home”
Maybe a record you’d normally end a mix with, but thought I’d switch up and put it at the beginning. Great cover of the Crusaders classic. I found this one in NYC, early in my journey. The store had a mint copy for $25, but this one was $2, and plays fine.
Pulled this out of the dollar bin right before leaving the spot. The cover was crazy looking and it was on MoTown. Crazy psych-soul shit I’d never heard of before. I love it when you take a chance and find a gem.
People “Somebody Tell Me My Name”
An ill pysch-rock 45, there’s not really a break on here but the production is so heavy and I felt the lyrics. Again, sometimes it’s just the feel of a record, it doesn’t have to be “super funky” or whatever. I felt like his talkin bout wandering the city related a lot to my adventures.
Lonnie Smith “Eleanor Rigby”
Can’t really pass up on a cheap copy of any Lonnie Smith record. Great jazz cover of one of my favorite Beatles’ songs.
The break heads know bout this. I’d been lookin for this 45 for years, the homie had a copy he used to play out all the time.
“…Soon Be Yesterday”
Ok so my dude Jumbo used this for an early Lifesavas cut (pre-Quannum), and played the original on his radio show back in the day. Shit was so smooth, I asked him what it was and he told me it was a certain group of female soulstresses. After listening to almost every one of their albums though, I still hadn’t found the sample. Then I’m in NYC and pull this out the cheap bin, had a curious cover, and boom – after years of lookin, the song appears. Some people might front but to me this is smoothed out slickness.
Pigeon John ft. Abstract Rude “Life Goes On”
The beauty of Amoeba record stores is the cheap hip-hop promo bins. I always loved this cut, especially the way Ab Rude styled on it. Vintage west coast underground.
Nancy Wilson “Ain’t No Sunshine”
A couple producers freaked this loop back in the day. A great cover – if you don’t have this, go check the local dollar bin.
“Where is the Joy”
Slipped a little piece of this joint in there for added flavor.
I spent about a day tryin to remember who used this break. Then it came to me.
“Here I Am Baby (Come and Take Me)”
Don’t get it twisted, my reggae knowledge is WEAK. But I was lookin through a stack of 45s and felt this Al Green cover was pretty heavy.
Idris Muhammad ft. Ish
There was no cover but I couldnt resist another copy of “Power of Soul,” such a dope record. I figured I’d spice things up with a classic Ish (Butterfly) verse.
Art Blakey and the AfroDrum Ensemble
Bob Dylan “George Jackson”
Not what you were expecting? This is actually a pretty rare record, and I was happy to finally locate a copy. Shout out to Not4Prophet for putting me on. It’s a powerful song dedicated to the murder of Black Panther George Jackson (please check out “Soledad Brother” if you haven’t heard of him) that doesn’t appear on any of Dylan’s albums. As July 4th is around the corner, a time when many will be spewing patrotic patriotisms, I thought it’d be good to end on this note that conveys a bit more truth about our government’s actions that what you see on CNN.